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Kerry Presides Over Groundbreaking at Museum of U.S. Diplomacy

9:27 AM, Sep 3, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is joining five of his predecessors on Wednesday at a groundbreaking ceremony for the United States Diplomacy Center, a new 40,000 square foot facility dedicated to "bringing the story of American diplomacy to life." The "state-of-the-art museum and education center" will include "interactive exhibits, compelling artifacts, hands-on education programs, diplomatic simulations, and the expertise of foreign affairs specialists." The State Department's website includes this artist's renditions of a glass pavilion that will house part of the museum in the forecourt of the "old War Department," now the U.S. Department of State and Marshall Center:

Kerry will be joined Wednesday  by Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker, III, Madeleine K. Albright, Colin L. Powell, and Hillary Rodham Clinton at the ceremony. The six secretaries will have plenty to talk about at the groundbreaking as each has dealt with challenges such as Iraq, Russia, and the Israel-Palestinian conflict, problems that continue to occupy much of Secretary Kerry's time today.

The museum's collection includes more than 6,000 artifacts, with items as varied as a ping-pong paddle given to Henry Kissinger by Chinese table tennis champion Zhuang Zedong in 2007 to commemorate the 1970s "ping pong diplomacy"with China in which the two played a part, to a set of Russian nesting dolls, including U.S. Ambassador Robert Strauss and his contemporaries. A significant number of the items featured on the museum's website were gifts presented to Hillary Clinton by foreign countries during her tenure. The collection also include more mundane items, such as a water can from USAID in Laos.

Back in 2012, the construction cost was expected to be between $18 and $24 million, but then the procurement order was cancelled. In April of 2014, a contract was awarded to Gilbane Building Company, although this time the contract award was not listed on the usual government contracting website. On May 1, the State Department announced the contract award of $25 million, saying that the construction would be privately funded, although the overall project is a public-private partnership. The State Department website says that the department is "committed to provide the tangible elements of public-sector support, including the land, operations and utilities, security, staffing assistance and equipment," while the agency is "confident that the private sector" will cover costs for construction, educational and special programs, plus conferences, forums, and an operating endowment.

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